A rare African-American art collection is on exhibit in its first Louisiana public showing at the West Baton Rouge Museum. Over the past 40 years, Lawrence and Gay Square’s private collection has grown to include sculptures, paintings, and prints by some of America’s most distinguished artists.

It isn’t for investment nor does it match the living room decor, Lawrence Square explained during a lunchtime lecture hosted by the museum.

“I just buy what I like,” he said.

Carefully selected pieces of art and memorabilia beautifully portray strength, character, beauty and the collector’s love of history. Square told the backstories of the Lawrence Square Black Art Collection with Dr. Joyce Marie Jackson during the lecture on Wednesday, Jan. 30.  

The Square Collection exhibit boasts of 20 figurative sculptures by internationally renowned sculptor Tina Allen, whom Lawrence Square considered a close friend. Allen passed away in 2008, but her legacy lives on through The Square Collection and around the world. During her career, she created several sculptures which call various places around the world home.

Allen was never finished with a sculpture “until it talked to her,” Square said. Her works “My Love” and “Thoughts and Dreams,” both on display in the exhibit, are among Square’s favorites.

Sculpture, though the most prevalent, is not the only form of art in the collection. The Square’s black art collection includes prints, paintings, and other works by acclaimed artists Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Ed Dwight, Charles Bibb, John T. Scott, Charles Dickson, Jim Wider, and Manuelita Brown. Also included are artifacts like slave shackles, rare historical documents, autographed books and memorabilia from sports icons like Michael Jordan.

The Zachary native and former school principal began the extensive collection in 1980-something with the purchase of a $250 sculpture, Lawrence Square said. From then on, he bought what he liked. His collection continues to evolve through sale and trade, he said.

The Square collection will be on display at the WBRM through March 24.

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